How to Become a Notary

A notary is someone who is commissioned by the state to witness the signing of signatures on legal documents, as well as perform other essential legal functions of the state. It is estimated that there are 6.4 million Notaries in the US. This number is expected to double by 2020. Career opportunities abound here, but you must be prepared.


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    Decide if you want legal training. A notary is either a lawyer or someone designated by the law to witness signatures on legal documents, execute jurats, take proofs of deeds, etc. It is not required that you get formal legal training (a JD, or law degree), although preference could be handed out to those with formal legal training, or degrees in criminology or related legal fields. Decide if you want to bolster your application with formal legal training or training in a related field.
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    Determine whether your criminal record could leave you ineligible, if applicable. Although people with a criminal record are not automatically disqualified in the United States, a criminal record with only minor crimes may be as much as you can get away with.[1] A criminal record with more serious crimes may substantially affect your ability to become certified.
    • In a few states, such as Texas and New York, among others, applicants with a felony charge may be ruled ineligible for certification as notaries public.[2][3]
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    Figure out if your state requires any notary classes before you apply. At the present, most states and territories do not require any special training or knowledge. States such as California and Florida, however require specific specialized training and education for licensing.[4]
    • These classes run anywhere from three to six hours generally and cost anywhere from $100 to $150.
    • The following states require that you take a class in order to become licensed as a notary public: California, Colorado, North Carolina, and Oregon.
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    Take the state-mandated notary exam, if necessary. Most states will make you, the notaries public candidate, take a notary exam before you can apply. It will cost around $50, usually. Some states, such as Louisiana, allow you to skip the test if you are already licensed to practice law in the state.
    • The following states require that you take the test in order to become licensed as a notary public: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New York, Utah, California, Colorado, North Carolina, and Oregon.
    • The exam, for the most part, consists of 30 multiple-choice questions, and 50 minutes to complete the exam. A score of at least 70% is required to pass.
    • If you do not receive at least a score of 70%, you may be given one free re-take voucher, although you can take the exam more than twice. Exams usually may not be taken more than once in the same calendar month.[5]
    • Results of the exam are usually issued after 15 days, and may be mailed or e-mailed to the applicant.
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    Check with your State officials to determine who is responsible for your licensing. Typically, the Secretary of State administers the Office of Notary. In some states, like New Jersey, the Secretary of the Treasury oversees the commission of notaries public.[6] You will need to get the notaries public application from the state department responsible for the licensing and commission.
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    Apply. Complete the application in strict accordance with their instructions. It is usually a pretty straightforward application asking you for personal information and details relating to your previous employment as a notary public, if applicable.
    • The application will include a nominal filing fee, usually something around $25.
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    Await an acceptance or rejection from the appropriate state department. The state will either accept your application or reject it. Rejected claims are usually sent back to applications with a notice to applicant for correction and resubmission.
    • Applicants who are accepted need to return a commission certificate to the appropriate office.
    • Once the commission certificate is sent in, take an oath with the county clerk.
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    Comply with all laws of your State as they apply to the Notary. Being a notary public means learning the proper procedures for identifying a person and what proper identification is according to the laws of your State. Make a record of all transactions, regardless of whether your State requires such or not.
    • Always keep your Notary seal and journal under lock and key. If your employer urges you to become a notary and you comply, you must take your seal and journal with you if you decide or happen to leave your place of employment.
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    Market yourself by equipping yourself with your State's tools. To make a living either part-time or full-time, businesses and professionals need to know you are available. Once you have told someone of your skills and abilities, repeat telling them and others that you are available!

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Categories: Legal Careers